Grand Targhee, Wyoming

Grand Targhee is one of 3 ski areas near Jackson, WY. People often hit Targhee for one day on their trips to ski Jackson Hole. It is known mostly as a less-steep area than Jackson Hole and for the great snow.

Views into Idaho from the top of Grand Targhee, March 2011

Views into Idaho from the top of Grand Targhee, March 2011

Stats

Vertical Drop 2270′
Size 2602 Acres
Annual Snowfall 500 Claimed / 486 Actual: Rank 5
Lifts 5
Trails Approx. 76 (they don’t publish an official count)
Review Date December 2013 and March 2011
Number of visits 2
Our Rating ★★★★
Grand Targhee trail map 2014

Grand Targhee trail map 2014

Review

We had been hearing about Grand Targhee for years and when we finally made it to Jackson Hole we took a day to ski Targhee. I’ve done this twice actually, and both times I went there I was very impressed when comparing it with Jackson Hole. This is a classic type of ski resort with only about 2,000 ft of vertical aligned along a single ridge, with 3 major ski pods on 2 peaks. Each run will be top-bottom, but the vertical is decent on the 2 high speed quads, so you can rack up a lot of vertical in a day.

Grand Targhee base area, March 2011

Grand Targhee base area, March 2011

There is actually a LOT of acreage to keep you entertained…at 2,600 acres it is bigger than Jackson Hole. I’m not entirely sure if that 2,600 includes the snowcat-only terrain though, because it doesn’t really feel like it is that large when you are skiing it. There are few trees on the Fred’s Mountain terrain, so most of the acreage is ungroomed.

The area gets little enough traffic that it is almost always possible to find untouched powder off the groomed terrain. On a powder day it is one of the few areas on our list that you will be skiing powder all day instead of just a couple of hours first thing in the morning. It’s a good thing that there are lots of powder days and frequent snowfalls because the area only has 5% of the terrain covered with snowmaking, which is one of the least amounts of snowmaking for any of the resorts on our list. The snowfall is so consistent there that they don’t really need it, which is a very rare feature.

Uncrowded slopes at Grand Targhee, December 2013

Uncrowded slopes at Grand Targhee, December 2013

Starting on the left, the Blackfoot chair is an ancient double that skis larger than the trail map suggests. This area gets less traffic and is my favorite spot in the afternoon because the groomers can still be fresh. It’s also slightly less foggy up top than Dreamcatcher on one of the frequent foggy days.

Fog at the top of Dreamcatcher, December 2013

Fog at the top of Dreamcatcher, December 2013

Dreamcatcher is the main lift and it’s a great one with 2,000 ft of vertical, lots of groomed intermediate and advanced trails, and access to hike-only terrain to skiers left. The hike to the top of “Marys Nipple” is short with a nice payoff of about 1,000 vertical of powder skiing. I’ve even hiked all the way over to the top of Peaked Mountain, which is above the top of the Sacajawea lift and is also the top of the snowcat skiing operation. They have signs up there that you are not supposed to ski down the Sacajawea side unless you’ve paid for snowcat privileges, but that is pretty flat anyway whereas the open double-blacks right down from the peak are steep and scary. These also face due north and have fantastic snow conditions. This is the steepest terrain on the mountain. The lower chutes on this steep ridge are accessible from the Sacajawea lift.

From the top of Peaked Mountain, Grand Targhee, March 2011

From the top of Peaked Mountain, Grand Targhee, March 2011

The Sacajawea lift is more typical of most Western resorts with some mostly heavily wooded terrain and runs cut through the trees. The only problem with it is that Dreamweaver is the only way to get back to the Dreamcatcher side, and it’s a narrow blue on a ridgetop that get pretty scraped up and rocky. The rest of the terrain is great with some varied winding runs.

Hiking Marys Nipple, Grand Targhee, March 2011

Hiking Marys Nipple, Grand Targhee, March 2011

Food is pretty limited and average. This is not something I look forward to when skiing there. We’ve eaten at the main Cafeteria and the smaller Trap Bar which is more of a locals hangout. There is also a deli that I haven’t tried. You are not at Targhee for the food though, so grab a quick bite and get back out there in the powder.

The vibe at Targhee is very friendly and way less competitive than at Jackson Hole. We’ve had some great chairlift conversations and had a great time skiing with a couple of the old timers that were giving tours. There are lots of local families there with race programs and a dedicated beginner chair and “Kid Fun Zone” that will keep the kids entertained.

Targhee has a snowcat operation as mentioned above. Friends of ours spent a day doing that and said it was a lot of fun and fairly inexpensive, although the terrain is a little flat for powder skiing. We will probably try that the next time we are there if snow conditions are good.

Looking down the snowcat terrain from the top, Grand Targhee, March 2011

Looking down the snowcat terrain from the top, Grand Targhee, March 2011

The good

  • Consistent deep and light snowfall
  • Less crowded than nearby Jackson Hole
  • 70% Intermediate terrain is great for average skiers
  • Most of the ungroomed acreage is skiable most days
  • Great groomed runs on each chair
  • 2 high-speed quads serve most of the mountain
  • Snowcat operation is great for inexperienced powder skiers
View of Grand Teton from Grand Targhee, March 2011

View of Grand Teton from Grand Targhee, March 2011

The bad

  • 2,270 vertical is respectable, but somewhat limiting
  • Top of the mountain is frequently fogged-in
  • Very limited village at the bottom with few options
  • It would be great if the Blackfoot chair was upgraded
  • You need to drive over Teton Pass to get there if you are staying in Jackson
Steep terrain on Peaked Mountain from top of Marys, Grand Targhee, March 2011

Steep terrain on Peaked Mountain from top of Marys, Grand Targhee, March 2011

Would we go back

We are definitely planning to go back. With the consistent deep snow I’m sure we will end up there some day soon when snow is hard to find at most other western ski resorts.

Hike to Marys, Grand Targhee, March 2011

Hike to Marys, Grand Targhee, March 2011

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